by Susun Weed
In First Nations cultures around the world, the winter months provide time for handwork – such as processing food plants, sewing and decorating clothing, mending and creating storage containers – and for storytelling. When I sit down with a basket of dried plant matter, I like to imagine someone is telling me a story as I work with it. (If you would like to do the same, it is best to turn off the TV, the CD player, and the computer, too, so you can hear the voices of the Ancestors.)
Listen for the story in the plant. Listen closely but broadly. Perhaps the plant you are touching will tell you a story. Perhaps an animal ally will tell you about the plant. Maybe a daydream will arise. Be sensitive to information from all directions and in all manners.
This thyme spoke to me of sunny days as I stripped the tiny leaves from her brittle, dried stalks. She shared with me a smiling, sunny, sweet-scented day with fluffy white clouds and flashing flying birds. Ahhh.
The main stalks of the thyme remain intact, but the smaller stalks break off and get in with the leaves, no matter how carefully I try to keep them separate. For culinary use, most of the stalk must be removed. A sieve with holes just the right size is helpful, as pulling the stalks out one by one with the fingers takes way too long. But note that even with that aid, there is still some stalky/leafy material left.
Here is the finished product I am going for: thyme salt.
i grind the mostly-stalk-free material with a generous amount pink Himalayan salt. The salt acts as grit and helps grind the plant material.
I sprinkle my thyme salt on food at the table for an antioxidant boost, add it to sour cream or cottage cheese to make an instant heart-healthy dip, sprinkle it lavishly on vegetables before roasting them, and even eat it off my finger. My daughter Justine keeps some in the car and eats some after being in a public place to keep her respiratory system safe.
When I was done working with the thyme, I had three parts, which I used in three different ways: Thyme with small stalks ground with salt (on red lid). Thyme stalks for tea (far right). Leafy bits without stalk for culinary use (on checkered lid).
Thyme stalk tea protects the lungs against infection, soothes upset stomachs, eases sore throats, prevents and treats colds, and bring the sun into the grey days of winter.
Now I am done. It is good. It is in beauty.
The many faces of dried thyme: de-leafed stalks, leaves with a little stalk (white bowl), leaves free of stalks (glass jar), and small stalks with some leaves (in the strainer).
Orodell the cat wants to help. Is it catnip?
Ready for use ... almost
Finished products, up close
From the top:
Schisandra berry salt (unground)